Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Does Not-for-Profit Own Teachers' Courses?
Acquiring ownership of contractor works. Your non-profit will own the copyright in the coursework (and not have to seek permission) if the contractor signed a work for hire agreement at the time the materials were prepared. Alternatively, you and the contractor might have signed an agreement containing an assignment provision -- an arrangement that says something to the effect of, "I assign all copyright in the work I created to the not-for-profit." Either of these arrangements allow the non-profit, as copyright owner, to freely exploit the materials including publish them online. Although it is probably too late to execute a work made for hire -- such agreements should be made in anticipation of the completed work -- the contractor can execute an assignment at any time.
License it. Even if the non-profit doesn't own copyright and can't acquire ownership via an assignment, the nonprofit may have acquired a nonexclusive implied license to reproduce the materials for their intended purpose. That is, if you hired the teachers to create course materials and the teachers were aware of your intention to publish the materials online, you would still have an implied license to publish the materials online. The drawback to an implied license is that it is nonexclusive and the teacher can offer the course materials to others, as well. In that case, you can still achieve your goal by executing an exclusive license for the rights you want. You can find sample agreement for most of the purposes discussed above in our Getting Permission book.